Tag Archives: Black Roots

Traditional roots on Black Roots’ Son of Man

dd94b1d78a5f43c96285dfd7840faa33UK reggae band Black Roots – one of my favourites alongside Aswad and Black Symbol – reunited in 2012 and the same year they dropped their first album in 20 years – the solid On the Ground. Since then they have been more productive – at least recording-wise – than probably ever before. On the Ground was followed by the heavyweight On the Ground in Dub and the solid Ghetto Feel.

Now it’s time for another full-length set. Son of Man is their second album on French label Soulbeats and it is slightly less militant than its predecessor Ghetto Feel.

Black Roots continues to tread the same path. They still carry potent messages and rely on tight backing vocals and sublime horns. Listen to the beautiful One Ebony Girl with its jazz horns and swinging chorus or the uplifting One Thing with its barbershop shu-bi-doops.

The lead vocals isn’t always pitch perfect, but with its straight-forward sound and infectious melodies Son of Man is still a satisfactory effort.

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Another deep and profound set from Black Roots

unnamedUK reggae band Black Roots is a favorite of mine and their self-titled debut album is one of the strongest sets coming from Britain. I was of course thrilled when I heard they had reunited a few years back and I was thrilled again when I realized they were also about to drop their first full-length set in more than 20 years.

On the Ground dropped in 2012. It completed their comeback and was a success.  It was followed by a stripped down and downright excellent dub counterpart in 2013.

Now I’m thrilled yet again. The reason? Black Roots is back with yet another scorcher. This time they’ve teamed up with French independent label SoulBeats.

Ghetto Feel is another deep and profound album from this Bristol-based band. It revolves around social challenges and Black Roots express their political standpoints on various issues. In the 80s they were at war with Margaret Thatcher, now their critique is directed at David Cameron, another Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative Party.

Even though Black Roots are outspoken with defiant lyrical themes, the melodies are often bright and they offer a good dose of slowly skanking vibes and uplifting grooves. Just listen to Albert Villa with its calypso-tinged melody or the gospel-fused Lonely Journey.

Ghetto Feel is the heart of vintage roots reggae and it could easily have been released in the early 80s.

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A few gems on Black Slate’s Midnight

midnightSeveral roots reggae outfits in the UK have reunited in recent years. Black Roots in 2012 and Talisman 2013. Both bands also managed to put out strong albums.

Another UK reggae band that was originally formed in the 70s and recently reunited is Black Slate. This London-based band started out by backing visiting Jamaican giants like Ken Boothe, Dennis Brown and Delroy Wilson. Between 1979 and 1985 they dropped seven albums as well as a signature hit – Amigo, a track that managed to reach top ten on the UK singles chart.

Midnight is their ninth album and the first album in almost 20 years. It was released earlier this year with only a few taking notice I believe.

The album features eleven tracks, of which two are dub excursions. The audio quality is unfortunately below par and a number of tracks sound plastic and dull, especially a romancing cut like Your Love.

There are however a few gems here. No Justices for the Poor borrows from Bob Marley’s No Woman No Cry in the chorus, which makes it rather cathcy and memorable, and Incidents almost sounds like Dennis Brown in his prime.

A decent album, but not nearly as great as the sets from other recently reunited UK reggae bands.

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Solid roots reggae from the re-united Talisman

TALISMAN I-Surrection PackshotTalisman have – just as their Bristolian roots reggae contemporaries Black Roots – re-united and recorded solid new album.

I-Surrection is the band’s third long player and comes almost 30 years after their debut album Takin’ the Strain. They reformed in 2011 and have been honing their craft on the road ever since.

The material is written by two of the original core members and the album comes with six vocal cuts along with corresponding dub versions. The set is produced by David Hill from Rootikal Productions, and he is also responsible for the dub mixes, even though most of them are more like instrumentals. The mixing wizardry is toned down and the live instrumentation speaks for itself.

The arrangements are sparse and the bass is put at front row and throughout the six socially conscious roots anthems Talisman fight against oppression and ignorant politicians. Much has happened in the world since the band’s debut album, but the struggle and some of the problems remain the same.

Talisman’s music has also remained the same. I-Surrection could very well have been recorded in the late 70s or early 80s. The only difference is the audio quality.

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Half-year report 2013 – 15 best albums yet

The first six months of 2013 have offered a number of glorious albums from Jamaican, U.S. and European artists and producers. My 15 favorites are listed below and if you’re curious about how it sounds you’re more than welcome to check the accompanying Spotify playlist here, where a majority of the releases are included. You can also check a review of each album by clicking the link to the set.

The list includes no reissues and is in no particular order.

Captain Sinbad – Reggae Music Will Mad Unu!
This veteran deejay made his musical comeback for Frenchie more than 20 years after his latest release. The LP and the version for digital platforms have different track lists, and I suggest you check out the vinyl version.

Cornel Campbell – New Scroll
The sweet high tenor voice courtesy of Cornel Campbell is set to magnificent music from the highly talented production trio Zion I Kings.

Jahcoustix – Frequency
German singer Jahcoustix wanted to make a more diverse album, but Frequency is his most consistent and cohesive set yet.

Trinity – Eye to Eye
Gruff voiced pioneering deejay Trinity teamed-up with Irie Ites for this retro sounding musical feast.

Malika Madremana – The Race
High school teacher by day and singer by night. Judging by this wonderful album Malika Madremana should focus on her music.

Meta & The Cornerstones – Ancient Power
Bob Marley-sounding Meta Dia moved from his home country Senegal to New York City and was exposed to an array of musical styles. His second album is roots reggae at its finest.

Jah Sun – Rise as One
Best album yet from this reliable U.S. deejay.

Lion D – Bring Back the Vibes
Rising star on the European and global reggae scene that has managed to make a catchy album full of foundation vibes.

Chezidek  The Order of Melchezedik
In 2010 Chezidek teamed-up with Dutch label JahSolidRock for his critically acclaimed album Judgement Time. In April this year the same label dropped Chezidek’s new album The Order of Melchezedik, and needless to say – they put out another powerful set of Rasta anthems.

The Lions – This Generation
13 musicians and four lead singers were involved the making of this soulful album that could be cherished by youths and elders alike.

Black Roots – On the Ground in Dub
One of the best UK reggae bands that reunited last year for the album On the Ground. This is the heavy dub version that contains some inspired mixing.

Etana – Better Tomorrow
Etana’s most cohesive yet and offers a soulful something for everyone.

Protoje – The 8 Year Affair
One of the leaders of the new generation of Jamaican conscious artists. This, his second album, is darker and heavier compared to his debut album The 7 Year Itch.

Jah9 – New Name
Debut album from the conscious Jah9. Her jazzy and breezy voice floats over hard riddims produced by Rory from Stone Love.

Lloyd Brown – New Veteran
Probably one of the most consistent artists – in any genre – in the world. Lloyd Brown usually drops at least one album per year and the quality is remarkably high.

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Black Roots’ better half

BLACKROOTS DUB STICKERED FOD093CDLast year’s On the Ground was Bristolian band Black Roots’ first album in more than 20 years and was rightly praised by critics and fans. The success has now spawned a dub counterpart to the original vocal version. Its title is simple and effective – On the Ground in Dub.

It collects 15 of the original 17 tracks. For some reason Capitalism and the title track didn’t make it for the dub version.

In classic dub fashion the music has been stripped down, rearranged and recharged, but without losing any of its bright and catchy melodies. This is partly thanks to the excellent and downright awesome horn section and partly thanks to the mixing style courtesy of Louis Becket, who hasn’t drowned the music with the usual dub effects.

The drums and bass are the mains ingredients, which gives the horns plenty of space to do their beautiful thing. It’s sweet with plenty of hooks, yet still militant.

The press release describes the album as a “a modern dub classic”. I can only agree. Definitely one of the best contemporary dub albums I’ve heard in many years.

On the Ground in Dub is now available on CD and digital download.

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A well-deserved reunion by Black Roots

Bristol-band Black Roots – one of the best reggae bands from the UK in the 80’s – has reunited and headed back into the studio for the first time in more than 20 years. The result is On the Ground, an album with a deep skanking groove reminiscent of their heydays almost 30 years ago.

The tight riddim section showcases their skills on both up-tempo cuts as well as slower and more meditative ones. It’s complemented by a skilled horn section and tight back-up vocals, which emphasizes the clear and bright melodies that have always been part of Black Roots’ sound.

The songwriting is inspired and the earnest lyrics concern cultural, conscious and economical issues, as witnessed in tunes such as No Fee, Earth Land and Capitalism.

Other highlights include heavyweighters Militancy and Pompous Way as well as the 80’s sounding Call Me Out.

Black Roots’ music have always been a vital mix of sing-a-long choruses and important messages to the people, and On the Ground sees the band working according to the same recipe as they have always done.

One the Ground is now available on LP, CD and digital download.

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A polished set worth reissuing

When talking about vintage UK roots reggae, groups such as Aswad, Steel Pulse and Misty in Roots usually come up. One of my all time favorite UK roots reggae outfits from the 70’s or early 80’s is however Bristol’s Black Roots, a group whose debut album from 1983 includes eight rock solid tunes.

Last year British label Bristol Archive Records teamed up with Black Roots’ own Nubian Records in order to drop the critically acclaimed Black Roots – The Reggae Singles Anthology, a set collecting several immensely strong tracks.

Now Bristol Archive Records have once more been allowed into the Black Roots/Nubian tape vaults.

This time it’s about a 25th anniversary deluxe CD edition of the group’s fourth album All Day All Night, a set where they teamed up with Mad Professor and moving away from their original sound for a more polished version, embracing new technology and production techniques to present a more – at the time – contemporary UK sound.

The music may have been brought up to date, but the lyrics concerned the same themes of social and historical justice that define the roots genre.

All Day All Night originally included twelve tunes, and this deluxe edition adds another six – five dub versions and an extended 12” mix of Pin in the Ocean
 
All Day All Night is certainly worth reissuing, even if it sounds a bit more dated than their earlier and more roots oriented material. But even if lavish synthesizers are overused on some tracks, you can’t go wrong with the breezy nonchalant vocals in Realize or the mighty horn riff in Pin in the Ocean.

Bristol Archive Records have as usual paid attention to detail and to complement the re-mastered music, the booklet includes many previously unpublished photos of the band.

Available now on CD and digital download.

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Bristol continues to rock

Earlier this year, a to me previously unheard of label caught my attention. Bristol Archive Records was the name of the label and the release was the worthwhile various artists’ compilation The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983. That 14 track set showcased the early reggae talents in Bristol, a city probably best known in the music industry for artists such as Massive Attack and Portishead.

Following the success of that album Bristol Archive Records have dug deeper into the city’s reggae heritage for the follow-up – Bristol Reggae Explosion Volume 2 – The 1980’s.

This album is in the same vein as the previous with a bunch of rare releases. But there are some notable exceptions. Several tracks are previously unreleased and it also includes a greater dub content. As the title indicates, the sound is also somewhat different compared to the rugged first version.

Bristol’s leading reggae band was, and maybe still is, Black Roots. They are represented with two tunes – the heavyweight roots piece The Father and the more commercial bubbling Pin in the Ocean, a tune produced by Mad Professor.

The other 13 tracks are by more or less unknown singers and bands. Some of them were featured on The Bristol Reggae Explosion 1978-1983. Joshua Moses, The Radicals and 3-D Production are for instance familiar.

Rise Up from Joshua Moses is rough UK roots at its best and it’s a mystery why this has been unreleased until now. Same goes for Alfred McIntosh’s seven minute dub exercise Wicked Dub.

Throughout the album you can follow the shift in the music’s direction – from unpolished and rough-edged to slick and sultry with more technology instead of live instrumentation.

Bristol Archive Records has once again managed to put together a stellar compilation with material I didn’t know I needed.

Bristol Reggae Explosion Volume 2 – The 1980’s is available on CD, digital download and as limited edition eight track vinyl with insert.

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Black Roots’ singles showcase a band in fine form

My first encounter with UK-band Black Roots was in a record store about ten years ago. The store had the original vinyl press of their album In Session up on the wall and I asked the clerk if I could have a listen.

I enjoyed the album, but since it was expensive I didn’t buy it and thought that I could spend my money on other records instead. About a week flew by and I regretted that I had neglected the album. I went back to the store, but the album had been sold and I haven’t seen an original vinyl press of that album since.

Luckily enough French label Makasound decided to reissue that particular album as well as an compilation with Black Roots’ material entitled On the Frontline a while ago.

Now another compilation dedicated to one of the – if not the – best reggae acts from the UK has been put out. This time by Bristol Archive Records in collaboration with Nubian Records – Black Roots’ own label.

Black Roots – The Reggae Singles Anthology assembles 16 well-mastered tracks spanning from the early 80’s up until 1988, when they were working with Mad Professor.

It includes all of their key early singles, their first EP in its entirety, the three track follow up, the original single mix of The Frontline from the BBC series of the same name and five tracks from later releases, such as singles from albums put out in 1987 and 1988.

Those five tracks are actually what make this album musically different from the Makasound releases. So the key question is – are the five tracks worth having?

The answer is yes. But, they are more pop oriented than the other material. And they sound a bit more dated.

A 16 page booklet full of previously unpublished photos of the band comes with the album. The initial run of CDs also has an added bonus – a DVD issue of the hard to find live show Celebration from 1986 with Vin Gordon on trombone. This show was recorded at the Bristol Studio and was previously only available on the original self-financed video cassette issue.

If you don’t already own the Makasound albums or other Black Roots material you should definitely head over to your local record store. Otherwise this album makes a great complement, especially if you’re early and receives the DVD.

Black Roots – The Reggae Singles Anthology comes as a limited edition double vinyl, CD and digital download.

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